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State contests Paul Mphwiyo’s push for case rehearing

OBJECTED—Kayuni

By Wezzie Gausi:

The state has objected to the application by Cashgate suspect Paul Mphwiyo and 18 others that their case should start all over again.

The former budget director and the others want their K2.4 billion Cashgate case to recommence because they say a new judge has taken over the matter.

Defence lawyer Powell Nkhutabasa made the application on Tuesday at the Lilongwe High Court. The defence also applied for a stay of the trial proceedings.

But Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steve Kayuni has objected to the application.

Kayuni said the applicants did not have any good reasons to restart or stay the case with all witnesses being recalled for hearing.

“In this matter, the accused were found with a case to answer and started defence. They are at accused number 8 who finished giving his defence. The matter is way advanced and too important for recommencement. The fears by a defence that before a new judge there will be unfair trials are without merit,” Kayuni said.

He said the State was looking forward to the ruling to be given on Monday next week.

“The matter indeed came for hearing today on application by the accused persons to stay the trial and also recommence the hearing. We have responded to it opposing the application. It is for the honourable court to make its decision next week,” said Kayuni.

Initially, the case was being heard by Judge Esmie Chombo who has been deployed to a diplomatic assignment.

The case is now handled by High Court Judge Ruth Chinangwa. She has since adjourned the matter to Monday, September 6, 2021, to give her ruling on the defence application.

In May this year, Judge Chombo also threw out another application by Mphwiyo and the others who wanted the case discontinued.

In their application, they asked the court to stay the case permanently.

They wanted Chombo to recuse herself in the case arguing she was due for retirement.

They also wanted Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda to be summoned to appear before the court “to be cross-examined” on matters surrounding the extension of the office of Chombo.

But in her ruling, Chombo dismissed the application in its entirety.

She, however, observed that, since her mandate expires on June 1 this year, it was clear that not much could be done within the remaining time before the due date.

“In my view, therefore, the only option is to refer the matter to the Judge President, Criminal Division, for further directions,” Chombo ruled.

She said her tenure as a judge was extended following due processes involving the Judicial Service Commission, the Chief Justice and the President in late 2018 for 18 months before being extended again in June last year for 12 months ending on June 1 this year

Chombo said the court was not the appropriate forum for the review of the decisions and actions of the Judicial Service Commission, the Chief Justice, the Chief Secretary and Registrar of the High Court.

“It, therefore, logically follows that this court should similarly decline, and does decline, to entertain the application for nullification of proceedings in that regard,” Chombo ruled.

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